Plan to fix Miner Road sinkhole stirs anger, controversy in Orinda

ORINDA (KTVU) -- A neighbor-against-neighbor battle has erupted in Orinda over how the city should proceed after the formation of a sinkhole that has forced motorists to navigate a narrow, winding detour.

The timetable to repair the sinkhole on Miner Road is uncertain at best and residents are divided over if the city should perform a quick fix to alleviate strain on the detour route or wait and perform a more comprehensive rebuilding project as one homeowner prefers.

Following days of drenching rains, a sinkhole formed on Jan. 11 on Miner Road where it passes over a creek. A 100-year-old old culvert pipe underneath the street then collapsed from rapidly running water.

The collapse resulted in Miner being severed, along with some utility lines. Also, three homes in the area were flooded when the washout occurred -- the second time for one of the houses.

On Jan. 17, the Orinda City Council held a special session and declared a state of emergency in order to speed repairs to the street.


Two months later, the crumbling road remains an open gaping wound and temporary utilities lines have been put in place because the homeowner who has been flooded twice wants the city to implement a better fix than the one originally proposed.

In order to repair the street, city crews must access the homeowner's property to do the work.

"That's kind of pitting neighbor against neighbor there," said Sally Hogarty, editor of the Orinda News. She said the situation is made worse because the closure of Miner is having a major impact on motorists and traffic patterns.

"For thousands of people who have to do a very circuitous route in order to get to downtown Orinda, get to schools (or) get to the freeway, this is a major problem," Hogarty said. "They want Miner Road open as quickly as possible and they're very upset that there could be this huge delay."

Residents say when over-sized vehicles, like garbage trucks, are on the road, it makes it difficult for motorists to pass.

"If the garbage trucks come by, it's really hard to pass," Hogarty said. "You're hung up for a while. If you have to go in commute time, you're in a mess. And, there's significant erosion happening to that road with the amount of traffic that it wasn't built for."

NextDoor, the online neighborhood chat board, is full of vitriol from Orinda residents.

"I've never seen anything quite like this here in Orinda," Hogarty said.

City officials wanted to replace the culvert with a similar sized one, work that would take about two months to complete.

But the twice-flooded homeowner wants a more comprehensive solution, an approach that would require an engineered bridge and take at least 18 months to build.

"They basically just want to be sure that whatever the city does, (it) is a good, permanent fix because they've just lost their home," Hogarty said.

Orinda city officials declined an interview request from KTVU, saying negotiations between the city and the homeowner are at a critical point that could be resolved at any moment. If not, the city could resort to more forceful action.

Several residents declined to speak publicly to KTVU, saying they fear retaliation from the city.

By KTVU reporter Tom Vacar.